Maureen McKay is author of Optimistic Outcomes: What Every Parent Wants and Every Child Needs, a book which offers advice to parents and educators about reaching children of varying learning styles. She’s also a mother who talked to School and Family about her experience with her own daughter’s learning style:
“I like to study at a desk in silence, and my daughter can’t think that way. She likes to bounce around on a ball with music in the background. Sometimes kids are just doing what works for them.”
Children Process Information Differently
Every parent knows that his or her child prefers some methods of learning over others. Some children learn by listening to the words you’re speaking. Others do better seeing those words on the blackboard, and some are able to understand only through hands-on exercises. To ensure that all students are able to process information effectively, it’s important for parents and teachers to understand how different learning styles impact learning, how to structure lesson plans to accommodate every learning style, and how to reinforce classroom learning in the home.
Are There Basic Learning Styles?
Children employ a multitude of individual strategies to improve their performance in the classroom and at home. Those strategies can becategorized into three primary learning styles—auditory, kinesthetic and visual:
- Auditory learners, as the name implies, do best when they hear information spoken. They also prefer reciting information as opposed to writing it down.
- Kinesthetic learners learn through action, such as performing hands-on exercises. They typically fidget when required to sit quietly and study and can understand new information better when they write it down.
- Visual learners process information through sight, such as watching a demonstration or using flash cards. These are the kids who understand new information when they see it in a graph or a chart. They get frustrated when they hear long, verbal explanations.
How Can Teachers and Parents Identify and Accommodate Different Learning Styles?
There are several tests and exercises to help identify learning styles. At the same time, skilled teachers and parents can learn a lot through simple observations and find effective strategies to accommodate a child’s primary learning style (many children learn through a combination of styles).
McKay (a former teacher’s aide) learned from conversations with elementary school teachers that her daughter had difficulty listening in class and developed home exercises to accommodate her learning style and strengthen her listening skills. She found, for example, that her daughter could increase her attention span by listening to an audio book while simultaneously reading the book. She then shared this with her daughter’s teachers.
Here are several strategies to help students with different learning styles master material:
These are the kids who do best when they hear words spoken. To accommodate their learning style, you can purchase audio books, and encourage them to read an assignment while simultaneously listening to the audio book. You should also encourage them to talk to you (and to their teachers and classmates) about what they’re learning, perhaps by asking them to do an impromptu oral report at home, or by setting information to a tune, which will make it easier for them to remember.
These learners need more activity than others and often find it difficult to sit still while learning. You can accommodate their learning style be integrating activity into learning exercises, such as building models or playing games. Allow them to take sporadic breaks and move around while completing homework assignments. Other strategies which are effective with kinesthetic learners include reading aloud, tracking words on the page with their fingers, and underlining important passages in reading assignments.
If your child loves flash cards or warms up to maps, tables and charts, he or she is probably a visual learner. Have these at the ready in your home to better accommodate these kids. Encourage them to draw, creating visual representations of what they’re learning, and to create detailed notes of what they discussed in class that day. Ask their teachers to have them sit in the front of the class, and to maintain eye contact as much as possible.
You can benefit by perusing scholarly articles which touch on learning styles and offer helpful advice to accommodate the learning style your child prefers. Equally important, however, is for you to be actively engaged in your child’s education, to observe what works and what doesn’t, and to help him or her devise effective learning strategies. Take the time to talk to his or her teachers, and create a learning partnership to dovetail those strategies, in the classroom and in your home.
To learn more about our one-to-one, customized approach which effectively accommodates all learning styles, contact us today.